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Hurricane Irma's Path; Hurricane Hunters Fly into Irma; Haiti Prepares for Hurricane Irma; Florida Braces for Irma. Aired 9-9:30 ET

Aired September 7, 2017 - 09:00   ET



[09:00:33] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning, everyone.

The entire southeast better wake up and pay attention, alarming words from the head of FEMA just moments ago with one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in recorded history heading right at millions of people in Florida. We're going to hear from the Florida governor any moment from now.

Hurricane Irma is a category five storm and it is huge with tropical storm force winds stretching some 300 miles. That's a span that would reach from Baltimore to Boston. The storm is tracking north right now of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, after tearing through the Caribbean. The prime minister of Barbuda says his nation has been reduced to literally rubble he says, estimating that 95 percent of the properties there have been damaged. In St. Martin, the interior minister calls the destruction a huge tragedy. While in Puerto Rico, one million people are now without power.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Nine people so far have been confirmed dead because of Irma. And while it is still unknown whether or not Irma will make landfall in the United States, residents across Florida not taking any chances. Florida's governor, Rick Scott, who you'll hear from in just moments, says some 25,000 people have already evacuated the Florida Keys as forecasts show that Irma could near the state's coast by Sunday.

And if all of that was not enough, Irma is now one of three active hurricanes in the Atlantic basin. This is the first time something like that has happened in seven years.

We are tracking the storm from Haiti up to Florida and beyond.

Let's begin with our meteorologist, Chad Myers, in Atlanta.

Chad, what does the modeling tell you this morning?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Not much different than where we were yesterday. In fact, the models have been very consistent, taking this very close to south Florida, maybe along the coast of east Florida, kind of like Matthew did last year, a couple years ago. There's the storm right now, 180 miles per hour, still in very warm

water and getting warmer, about 86 degrees out there. Here's the latest track from the Hurricane Center. We will get a new track at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time, but I don't think it's going to change much.

Let me zoom right in here. We have about 150 mile per hour storm very, very close to the Florida East Coast right there, somewhere in that cone area. That's why there's a line there. It could be here to here.

And then you see it's down to 120 and then down to 85 as it makes landfall maybe possibly somewhere in North Carolina. But that's only if the center of the line occurs. Let me go back to that. If the line, if the center the line does this, stays on land then goes offshore, then North Carolina, you're going to get an 85 miles per hour storm. Maybe I should say only 85 miles per hour storm.

If the storm misses land, if it misses Miami, goes up through here, it's still going to be 140 miles per hour storm. Maybe 130 as it gets into slightly cooler water. But then the turn back towards the west is expected again. So everyone still in play here.

This is going to hit somewhere as a major category three, four or five hurricane. The models, as you asked me about them, only one really back through here, and that's the U.K. MET (ph) model. The United Kingdom model. The European model right through downtown Miami, which would be absolutely worse case with 140 or 150 miles per hour storm, storm surge 20 feet, splashing into all the cities from Coral Gables, right on up to Miami, maybe even to Fort Lauderdale.

But then the United States models, a little bit farther off the coast. Slightly more into the Bahamas, which, of course, we don't want for the Bahamas, but slightly farther off the coast, if we could get that. Thirty miles from the Bahamas. Thirty miles from the U.S. coast. There would be a significant slowing down of property damage until you get up to here.

So depends where you are, depends what you're rooting for. If you are evacuating today, the gas situation is not going well in some spots. Please don't let your car get below half a tank before you start looking again. You don't want to be out of gas and then so is the station you're trying to get gas at, because then you're stuck.

BERMAN: Chad, the difference between the European and the U.S. models, what is it exactly? And anything to slow this storm down before it gets to the Florida coast?

MYERS: You know, we talked about this the other day. If this storm actually did take a little track here, here's the European model, over the coast of Cuba, that would take some speed out of the storm because the storm wants to be over water to gain strength or to main strength -- maintain strength. So the storm would slow down if it was over Cuba. Slowdown in speed, wind speed, maybe 120 compared to 140 or 150 right here. Now that would certainly devastate the northern coast of Cuba. That's the only thing that's going to slow the wind speed down from this storm. [09:05:11] This here, this water here is 86 or 87 degrees right through here. This is just high octane fuel for the storm to continue to grow.

And the storm is rolling over islands here that are eight or ten feet tall. OK, that's not going to slow the storm down like running over Cuba. It's just going to over wash those islands. Some of these Turks and Caicos be completely over washed. They're eight feet tall. The waves are going to be 20. You kind of get the idea of what's going to happen there. People are off those islands. They are evacuated from there.

BERMAN: All right, Chad. Chad Myers for us in the Weather Center. Chad, we'll check back in with you in a little bit.

Joining us now is Paul Flaherty. He is a flight director with the NOAA hurricane hunters right now in the air on a mission.

Mr. Flaherty, thanks so much for being with us right now.

Tell us what you are going to measure.

PAUL FLAHERTY, FLIGHT DIRECTOR, NOAA: Yes, hey, John. Hey, Poppy. Thank you for having us (INAUDIBLE).

But they need to hear, which is to get out of the way if you're told to evacuate. That is the big message we want to get out to everyone. And we're out here flying and collecting data.

You just mentioning about those models. If it the models don't agree with the initial data out here in the middle of the Atlantic, where there's not a lot of data, then they're going to have errors put in right from the start. So we're up here to make sure that the correct data's going into those models.

HARLOW: Talk about, if you would, Paul -- and, first of all, thank you for what you and your entire team is doing. I mean it's remarkable to all of us watching what you guys go through to get us this data.

What is the data telling you about just how much of a monster, how big this storm is now?

FLAHERTY: Well, the data that we're collecting on the aircraft that I'm flying on today, I'm flying on the (INAUDIBLE), Gulfstream 4. We're the high-flyer that stays on just the outskirts of the plane -- of the -- of the storm in order to collect data regarding the steering currents. And the data we collect right now won't be really known to us until the 12-z (ph) model run occurs, which is really happening now. And we'll get that information out in about two to three hours.

BERMAN: The eye wall -- over the last day, any of the measurements you've seen tell you anything about the strength, the tightness of the eye wall?

FLAHERTY: Well, I can tell you this, we just see the eye wall still a little bit. It looked like earlier tonight but more recently it looks like it's starting to clean up again. You know, it really won't matter at this point whether it remains a cat five or becomes a cat four. At this point, if you -- if it's over your house, you shouldn't be there regardless. And that's really the message we want to get out as it comes to the intensity of the storm, to make sure that nobody is there. We can't do a whole lot other than helping you prepare your property, but we can't really do a whole lot after that. So we just want to make sure that your viewers that need to be out of the way that are instructed from their emergency managers and from the information from the NOAA National Hurricane Center do get out of the way.

HARLOW: What is it like for you and your team as you fly through Irma?

FLAHERTY: Well, it's an interesting job, as you can imagine. I'm a meteorologist. And so some people would say it may be a dream job. But we don't ever want there to be hurricanes, if that makes sense. But in a situation like this when we can get out here and, yes, we do get bounced around quite a bit. It can be tiring. It's, you know, wild (INAUDIBLE) sometimes. And, you know, so it can be a difficult job at times.

But, at the end of the day, knowing that the data, the information that we're collecting has the potential, if people will listen, has the potential to save millions of lives. And I don't know if I have another job where I could feel so good about doing something like that.

BERMAN: I don't think anyone would call it a dream job.


BERMAN: I think many people may call it a crucial job. And thank goodness you're willing to do it.

HARLOW: Thank you so much, Paul. And our best for the safety of you and your entire team. We appreciate all of the information.

Let's go to Haiti now. That is where our Paula Newton is. It is where Irma is right now striking the coast.

Paula, what are you seeing?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Poppy, and good morning to you and John.

What we are seeing here is the beginnings of the storm. We've seen winds pick up a little bit and we've been lashed with rain.

Here's the thing. You know, you just heard him say, if you're underneath this storm, you don't want to be there. Get out. No opportunity to do that here in Haiti.

The good news is, Haiti is unlikely to take a direct hit. Bad news, it could still do significant damage. Remember, this is a country not equipped with resources and the organization to try and get people evacuated. There are evacuation centers. Very little evidence that people are going there. People have been told to stock up with food and water. Those are basics. And yet people here are already lacking the basics.

What are people afraid of? It's the flooding and the mudslide that come afterwards. And if you can feature it, you know, you're already perched on the side of a hill. Your home consists of a tin roof and some plywood. And all of a sudden this storm comes barreling through. You think the worst is over. The wind has died down. Guess what? You have a wall of water and mud just rushing down the side of the hill.

[09:10:08] These are the kinds of things that are very terrifying to people here. They have seen it before. Just last year, Hurricane Matthew really devastated the southern part of Haiti. Right now I'm on the northern coast here and people, Poppy and John, just bracing for it right now. And as I've been saying, you know, praying is passing for preparation here because there's very little else that can be done.

BERMAN: Yes, exactly. And Paula Newton for us in Haiti. And every nation faces a different challenge. And it does not take a direct hit in Haiti to cause a sea of problems there.


BERMAN: Paula, thanks so much.

Florida, now. Millions of people in Florida bracing for the possibility of a direct hit. Evacuations -- mandatory evacuations have been ordered in some places. CNN's Rosa Flores is in Miami Beach.

Rosa, what are you seeing?


You know, some people waking up this morning in Miami or the Miami area to learn that they've been added to the evacuation list.

Let me get you up to speed here. In Miami-Dade, people with disabilities started evacuating yesterday. Today, at 7:00 a.m., the area where I'm standing in right now is under a mandatory evacuation. So is zone a, which is part of the coastal areas, including even this island that's here to the south. And that includes everyone in a mobile home. That's what public officials are saying, that they need to get out and they need to get out early before the impending doom of this giant storm hits Florida.

Now, when it comes to our friends in the south, in Monroe County, according to the governor, 25,000 people have already evacuated, and more are moving north because that's the thing about Florida, you can't evacuate to the east and you can't evacuate to the west. You've got to go north.

And according to Florida Highway Patrol, they are seeing an increase number of vehicles heading north. They're also seeing a lot of displaced vehicles on the side of the road. And troopers will be towing those vehicles starting today to make sure that the flow of traffic can continue.

So, John, a lot of stress in south Florida as people try to figure out, OK, will I be added to the evacuation list? What can I do to prepare? And, of course, listening very closely to local officials and their directions.


HARLOW: And, Rosa, they will hear more of that in just moments because, as you know, we're waiting for the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, to give us an update.

Thank you, Rosa, so much for your reporting.

We should note, these teams, like Rosa, they've been in the field in Houston for a week and a half doing this.


HARLOW: Going to Florida. Just nonstop coverage. And we appreciate it.

So let's take a look at some live pictures our of Hialeah, Florida. That is where Governor Rick Scott is giving an update on this monster storm of Irma headed straight towards his state. We'll take you there live.

BERMAN: And there's some big news out of Washington right now. In just a few minutes, Donald Trump Junior will arrive to meet on Capitol Hill. He'll meet with some Senate Russia investigators to talk about his meeting with a Russian lawyer.

We're on top of all these fast moving developments. Stay with us.



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: For the most costly damage from Irma is likely still yet to come as this hurricane comes closer and closer to Florida potentially hitting Miami-Dade. The storm could deliver a huge blow to the state's lucrative real estate and tourism industries.

Christine Romans joins us with more. I mean, I just think of like Miami Beach.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Look at the size of this storm and there's a lot of tourism, a lot of real estate in the state that will be stalled at least for now.

You know, right now is the time people are trying to get out and the airlines are starting to offer discounts to get out of there. You know, there was this sort of viral thing yesterday where somebody noticed that there was an air fare that went from $547 to $3200. This was on Delta.

Delta says, no, this was some sort of glitch with Expedia, but it's since been corrected at least. All of these airlines are now capping their airfares. Delta capping their airfares at $399, American $99, JetBlue $99 to $159.

The reason is they want you to get out of their now. Our meteorologists are telling us if you don't leave now or tomorrow then your window has closed and it gets very, very dangerous.

Walmart is sending down bottled waters. Starting to see the corporate response again and again. The cruise lines are refunding folks for canceled cruises and bringing people home early and then they are going to have to get on these planes and get the heck out of there. So, there's a lot in motion here right now in terms of the just the right now pocketbook economics of getting out of Florida.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, get out now because look, they don't want you in your car when the tropical storm force winds start coming, which could be as early as Saturday. Christine Romans, the markets open in a few minutes. What are we expecting today?

ROMANS: A little bit higher here, you know, that debt deal with the president of the Democrats, something that the markets like here, you know, doing a deal, getting the deal done, and they like it. We'll see what happens come December when there are new deadlines to deal with as well.

But overall, markets look like they're up a little bit. They were up overnight in London, Paris, and Tokyo as well. Those are not huge gains by the way. Anything can happen during this day.

HARLOW: Yes. We'll watch. Christine Romans, nice to see you.

BERMAN: Thank you so much.

All right. Our next guest, rode out the storm in San Juan, Puerto Rico overnight, Irma. Debra Adams is from Houston, by the way, and just went through Hurricane Harvey. She joins us now by the phone.

Debra, thanks so much for being with us. Again, you rode out Harvey in Houston. You are now in Puerto Rico dealing with Irma. This has got to be a little bit strange for you.

DEBRA ADAMS (via telephone): Yes, it is. It's very strange that I was there in Houston stranded in home for four days, I didn't really take on water, but I could not maneuver because the major highways were flooded. So, I was looking forward to coming to Puerto Rico to vacation here and right in the midst of Irma.

HARLOW: I think you deserve another vacation in a hurricane-free zone --

BERMAN: Go to the desert.

HARLOW: -- right after this. Send you to Arizona after this. But Debra, in all seriousness, the governor of Puerto Rico was on CNN last night and said the winds are, quote, "like nothing we have ever experienced before." Is that how you felt? I mean, obviously, you don't live there, but was it sort of surreal?

ADAMS: Well, actually, when we had to evacuate the hotel lobby yesterday evening, they had planned activities that the noise was really loud, so therefore, we did not hear any of the winds. We could not see out so they had like the different things to make it really loud where people would remain calm.

So, during the height of the storm we were actually inside with planned activities so that really did help with the children that are in the hotel, and it really keeping us calm because we really didn't know.

BERMAN: That's very helpful especially with children to keep them focused on something else so they are worried because being scared can almost be worrisome to make the situation even more dangerous. I think it's notable that you were apparently doing the salsa as this hurricane was hitting Puerto Rico.

ADAMS: No, absolutely I couldn't move. Just kind of sit there because after experiencing Hurricane Harvey, I really didn't know what to expect so I didn't do it at all. I just really sat there and looked.

BERMAN: Have you had a chance --

ADAMS: No --

BERMAN: Have you had a chance to look outside yet this morning, Debra?

ADAMS: Actually, I have been out this morning. I walked the beach. It's just amazing I didn't see any destruction of property. Mainly limbs down from trees, and people were actually out on the beach surfing.

I walked down the streets and the businesses are removing the plywood, tape, and they're just back to normal. To be honest, the side of the island I'm on you would never have known that a Category 5 hurricane came through here on yesterday.

HARLOW: Wow. As you talk, we are looking at images clearly from the other side the island where you've got flat-bed trucks overturned, roofs ripped off buildings. So, you guys certainly were spared. The we're glad to hear it. Debra, we're wishing you and your friends the best and a dry vacation next for all of you. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

ADAMS: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. The storm caused so much damage in the Caribbean, one of the hardest hit islands, Barbuda. We have some just heartbreaking images from that island, 185 mile-an-hour winds there. You can see how it just devastated that island.

HARLOW: So, over 90 percent of the homes on Barbuda and the buildings destroyed according to the prime minister. He said the island is barely habitable.

Joining us now on the phone is Michael Joseph, the president of the Red Cross of Antigua and Barbuda. Thank you for being with us. I know that you are headed to or are already on Barbuda this morning. Are you there? And if so, what are you seeing?

MICHAEL JOSEPH, PRESIDENT, RED CROSS ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA (via telephone): Yes. Thank you very much for having me. I'm not there yet. If I was, there wouldn't be communication because there is no communication at this time. So, we're due to leave at 1:30 with the next available helicopter.

BERMAN: So the prime minister told CNN the island is barely habitable at this point. What more have you heard about the damage to the island?

JOSEPH: So from what -- because we had a cabinet meeting last night with all the emergency response people that were present. And from the information that we had coming in, we're talking about everything being desolated from the water system, communications system. I mean, we saw the communication tower was literally snapped in half. The schools completely ruined. Hard to tell damage, everything, I mean, it's like a deserted island where it is right now.

HARLOW: Wow. You know, what's stunning looking at these images that we're seeing as we talk to you is that at least, as of last night, the prime minister of Barbuda told Anderson Cooper there was only one fatality, which is remarkable, looking at this devastation. Is that the latest number that you have as well?

[09:25:09] JOSEPH: Yes. So, from all indications, there's only been one fatality, as a matter of fact, up to this morning, information coming from the Minister of Health indicated surprisingly that there are very minimal injuries.

So, looking at what took place at the infrastructure, we thought -- that we had anticipated at least significant amount of injuries to a lot of the inhabitants there, but thankfully that's not the case. Unfortunately, a 2-year-old toddler died during the incident, which is just, you know, hard to deal with for us.

BERMAN: I got to say, it would be a miracle if that number stays the same. It's certainly something we are all hoping for right now. Again, we are looking at some of the images of the devastation.

There's another hurricane stewing in the Atlantic right now. Not exactly clear where it's headed. Can people remain on Barbuda in the face of this oncoming hurricane? And with the scope of rebuilding that needs to happen? Do you need to get people off the island?

JOSEPH: Well, that has been discussed as well and definitely, if Hurricane Jose continues along the projected the path, it will pass pretty much the same like Hurricane Irma in which the decision has been made already that if this continues, there will be a full evacuation of all persons in Barbuda. As a matter of fact, up to last night, the prime minister indicated Barbuda has a state in a state of emergency and a disaster area. But just because of the high level of impact and high amount -- simple things as running water, flushing toilets, no longer exists in 95, 100 percent of the properties that still have some sort of shape itself.

HARLOW: Michael Joseph, thank you very much for talking to us. We wish you and your team the best when you do go to Barbuda a little bit later this afternoon.

We have a lot ahead. Racing for Irma, the latest on this monster storm's path as Florida takes no chances. The governor gives an update in just moments.

BERMAN: And really any minute from now, Donald Trump Jr. will arrive on Capitol Hill. He will meet with Senate Russia investigators and at the center of this discussion, his meeting with that Russian lawyer. We'll give you the very latest next.